To USB or Not to USB


ExpressCard 2.0 Finalized with Support for USB 3.0

The cool think about ExpressCard is that you will be able to add fast storage devices to your laptop with these cards.  Specifically, you can add more USB 3.0 ports because it’s fast enough to support the 5 Gbps.    Current ExpressCard slots can only support 2.5 Gbps, so it really isn’t fast enough to keep up with USB 3Read about it on Slashgear here

So some of the early products can be:

1) USB 3.0 Host card – This provides USB 3.0 Host ports and has a PCIe interface on one edge. T his card would work in existing ExpressCard laptops and future ones as well.  This is cool for USB 3.0 PCs because an ExpressCard with a full XHCI host would provide a completely independent additional set of USB 3.0 Host ports for additional throughput.  In other words, existing USB 3.0 Host ports that ship with your PC can only provide a distributed 5 Gigabits per second.  The dedicated port(s) would provide an additional 5 Gbps on those ports.


A USB 3.0 Host card would have two physical connectors:
    A) a ExpressCard connector using PCIe Leads and
    B) USB 3.0 A-Receptacle.

2) USB 3.0 Hub card – This provides additional hub ports through the on-board USB 3.0 Host.  This is great because it adds ports to your PC.

A USB 3.0 Hub card would have two physical connectors:
    A) a ExpressCard connector using the USB 3.0 Leads and
    B) 1-4 USB 3.0 A-Receptacles.

3) USB 3.0 Flash Drive – This provides Mass Storage Device, basically a thumb/flash Drive.  For the form factors and sizes, I can easily see these being in the range of 100GB in the next 3 years.  This means that you could buy a Laptop with a embedded Hard/Flash drive of only 64 or 128GB later, and add on additional storage later, when you run out of space.

Of course, the big advantage of an ExpressCard over a Thumb Drive is that it doesn’t stick out so you can leave in plugged in all the time.  Also, with the new power saving features of USB 3.0, you can power down and use the low power modes so that it doesn’t draw power.

You could potentially also put a standard USB 3.0 connector on this as well, so that you could pull the drive out of the ExpressCard slot and plug it into a standard external USB 3.0 slot.  So it’s easy to use with non-ExpressCard PCs (like a MacBook) and devices (like a DTV). 

A USB 3.0 Flash Drive would have at least two physical connectors:
    A) a ExpressCard USB 3.0 Connector and
    B) Optional – A USB 3.0 A-Plug.

4) PCIe Flash Drive – This provides similar features the USB 3.0 Flash Drive, but uses some kind of driver I’m not familiar with.  The USB 3.0 Flash Drive will use standard USB Mass Storage drivers which have been shipping for 9 years, and newer, faster USB drivers as well.  These will be great, but I really don’t know if you can use some kind of standard driver with this, or need proprietary ones.  You could still have an extra, standard USB 3.0 A-Connector on this so you could remove from an ExpressCard slot and plug it into a external USB slot.

5) USB 3.0 Flash Drive and Hub – This is a compound device meaning it includes both a USB 3.0 Hub and a USB 3.0 Device.   In this case it uses the USB 3.0 Hub connected to the ExpressCard port.  Downstream it has multiple USB 3.0 Ports to connect to other dev ices.  One of those ports is used for the Flash Drive.  The Flash Drive uses a USB 3.0 Device controller embedded in it.  The remaining ports are external ports that provide additional USB 3.0 Connections.

A Compound Device would use the following connectors
    A) a ExpressCard USB 3.0 Connector and
    B) One or more USB 3.0 A-Receptacles

The connection from the Hub to the Device is internal to the ExpressCard.  I think this is great because it differentiates the Flash Drive as enabling 2 functions.  The end product is differentiated in the marketplace with the same form factor

The great thing is that all these will all be backward compatible to USB 2.0 also, they will just run at USB 2.0 speeds.

So I’m really excited that the ExpressCard standard has moved forward.  I hope to see products based on this soon. 

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